What you need… experience is crucial. It is rare for a firm to take on an HR manager who does not have prior law firm or general partnership experience. There is sometimes a degree of flexibility, for example a large law firm may take on someone from a big insurance company or a big bank. But legal or professional services experience is almost always required – even for more junior and administrative positions within HR. The CIPD qualification is always beneficial but, given the premium placed on sector specific experience, a strong HR manager with experience would rarely have trouble securing a position.
How to get into it… large firms generally recruit from other large firms, making it a hard market to break into. A common route into a large company is to work your way up in a smaller firm, and transfer to a smaller job within a larger company. The opposite is also true. It is relatively common for HR officers in larger firms to take on much larger roles within a smaller company. Large- and mid-sized firms will recruit graduates and support them through their CIPD to ensure a crop of home-grown talent, but places are limited. It is also possible for a qualified, experienced lawyer (specialising in employment law) to move into HR, where their legal expertise will be greatly valued.
Prospects are… very good, once you have broken into this market. Remuneration tends to be less than in banking and insurance, partially due to the prevalence of bonus schemes in these sectors. However, the legal and professional services sector offers a unique challenge to the HR professional, very different from a commercial environment. For example, rather than working for one managing director, you will have to work with multiple partners and tailor your style to meet their individual needs.